Shopping for Lawyers: the Orange or the Okinawa Sweet Potato?

By John T. Syrtash, Associate, Garfin Zeidenberg LLP, a Toronto family law lawyer for the past 39  years.

When shopping for fruit, we look for the orange that isn’t discolored. The skins of green oranges are often dyed to attract the ignorant consumer. Yet dying them makes them very profitable.

By comparison, courtroom family law lawyers come in different styles of fruit and vegetables. 

Suing is usually expensive and unpredictable.  Why pick the Courtroom lawyer whose only goal is mostly to impress the client by raising his/her voice, repeating lies without evidence, and sending ferocious but meaningless emails and letters.  Like dyed oranges, such lawyers do so only to show how “tough” they are.   And many do it so well that the circus they play out in Court and during negotiations will often override the client’s anger when a Judge makes the ‘wrong’ ruling: “it must be that Judge. My lawyer spoke so forcefully and well.” Or, “my lawyer wrote such great letters. It’s my wife’s/husband’s lawyer:  its all delays and refusing to bargain.” 

I call such lawyers who posture “dyed” lawyers, just like the green oranges painted to appear, but are just noise. Some are so successful at their theatrics that they bilk their clients but present few results. Such dyed lawyers write letters refusing to bargain with opposing Counsel and correspond by posturing to impress the client.   The customer then “feels” well represented though such tactics gain you nothing but excessive legal fees. It’s not that clients are stupid but are often hypnotized by the fictionalized television lawyer:  Perry Mason, Ally McBeal, or Matlock on stilts.

Unlike dyed oranges, Judges prefer the lawyer who is like the Okinawa Purple Sweet potato.  The best display their bright purple colours only on the inside.  The skin may be plain, but it is sweet and far more nutritious than even blueberries. The Okinawan sweet potato has 150 % more antioxidants than blueberries. Antioxidants help prevent cardiovascular disease and cancer.  So, the residents of the Japanese island of Okinawa have younger brains and live longer than anywhere else in the world, suffering from 50% less brain disease and an 80% reduced chance of heart disease.

No, the lawyer who is like the Okinawa Sweet Potato may not speak Japanese. But he or she is both wise and humble: Anyone whose good deeds exceed his wisdom, his wisdom will endure. And anyone whose wisdom exceeds his good deeds, his wisdom will not endure.” (Ethics of the Fathers, 3:12.) “Good deeds are wisdom applied. Without wisdom, we have no moral compass to determine whether our deeds are good or bad. And even the greatest wisdom, without good deeds, is ultimately no wisdom at all.” (Aish HaTorah website.)

The wise family law lawyer carefully composes the right strategy based on knowledge and experience.  Failing enough experience, humility will have him/her consult others who have such knowledge and experience.  Then such a lawyer applies that strategy civilly and without a “show.” He/she considers the most cost-efficient and effective tactics, tries to settle disputes early, and gives the Court measured arguments based on real evidence, not bombast. 

So buyer beware. Pick the Okinawa Sweet Potato, not the dyed orange.  

John Syrtash is an associate and family law lawyer with the Toronto firm of GARFIN ZEIDENBERG LLP.

John  T. Syrtash B.A. (Hon.) LL. background:

Invited Speaker on Bill 78, Proposed Changes to Canada’s
Divorce Act, House of Commons  Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights  (November
26, 2018)
Editor of the Syrtash Family Law Newsletter, Lexis Nexis
President of the Syrtash Spousal Support Database
Author of Religion and Culture in Canadian Family Law, Butterworths
Author A Calendar of Northern Fables, Amazon

Neither GARFIN ZEIDENBERG LLP nor John Syrtash is liable for any consequences arising from anyone’s reliance on this material, presented as general information and not as a legal opinion.

John T. Syrtash,
Yonge-Norton Centre
5255 Yonge Street, Suite 800
Toronto, Ontario, Canada M2N 6P4
Cell:  (416) 886-0359
Fax: (416) 512-9992

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